Hello my name is Joshua Ponter. I am a member of Haddonfield Monthly Meeting in South Jersey’s Philadelphia area. I have embarked on a year-long mission to travel around the country collecting stories about the founding of different meetings and looking at the way we practice Quakerism today. I will be blogging about my travels on the PYM website. Find my latest entry below. Please email me at JPonter1@gmail.com if there is anyone from your meeting who would like to sit down with me and speak to some of your history — or if you would like more information on me or my project . Thank you!
My next stop was in the historic town of Wilmington, North Carolina. I was able to spend the week prior to Christmas camped out on the front lawn of one of my cousins’ houses about an hour west of the city. There is a saying that goes something like “Every step one takes into a forest is another they must take out.” A little while ago this occurred to me in regards to my driving- how every mile I go is another I must take to get home. It was a puzzling thought, however, because the fact is I am towing my home behind me wherever I go. The truth is that while I know many people who will be willing to give me a place to stay, I don’t really have a set place to live once I return to New Jersey. It then occurred to me that a home isn’t really defined by the place you live but rather the people who are around you. If I can be with people I love it is there I am home. Spending the week at my cousin’s house was absolutely the best Christmas gift I didn’t know to ask for.
I was able to visit the small meeting house in Wilmington for Sunday worship. It is a newer building that had once been a home to various other organizations most of which I seem to have forgotten to write down and would not care to guess at. Like many of these small Meetings it started originally in somebody’s home and moved from various locations to accommodate a growing number of members. One point of interest was that apparently nobody attending the meeting were originally from Wilmington.
The concept of a Quaker presence being absent until recently was not all that surprising given the history of racial unrest in the surrounding area. Said area was apparently devastated in the years following the civil war starting with the “Reconstructionist Movement” and continuing into a little talked about, but horrifying “Wilmington massacre” of 1898.Herethe state’s white Democratic Party conspired and led a mob of 2,000 white men to overthrow the legitimately-elected local Fusionist government. They expelled opposition black and white political leaders from the city, destroyed the properties and businesses of black citizens built up since the Civil War, including the only black newspaper in the city, and killed more than 300 people.
Upon talking to people in the community I soon discovered this prevalent ideology continues today: Where this atrocity is glorified by a certain population, who is not in the minority. Where people of a certain skin tone are afraid to travel. I know one of the purposes of my journey was to explore and understand the ways in which different people behave or act. In this, I find myself not willing or able to do so.